Business Woman Media: The art of receiving feedback

Is it the delivery or is it that we just don’t like hearing about our short-comings? You’ve been there, I know you have. You complain about the food in the restaurant, only to be punished with your own anxiety around what might happen to your dessert which hasn’t yet arrived.

Or you’re driving your car, minding your own business and someone cuts you off. Naturally, you give your horn an epic blast and in return, they give you the international signal of “I’m not so happy about that”… and they were the one in the wrong!

We do it at work, and with our partners. Our natural response when someone gives us feedback is that we get defensive.

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Feedback = growth

Imagine you were an up-and-coming sports star. Surely your coach, manager, parents and fitness team don’t only tell you the great stuff about what you do? If they know you can do better, they’re going to tell you directly what those things are. After all, what favours are they doing you by only pointing out your strengths?

Plus, isn’t that information part of having a competitive advantage?

It’s one thing to deliver feedback the right way but it’s also a skill to receive feedback with openness.

Here are 3 ways to receive feedback with openness:

1. If someone has mustered up the courage to tell you something confronting, recognise that it’s a big deal.

It’s hard to have a Bold Conversation with someone. It might get awkward. Someone might get offended, or upset. It’s high risk.

Given that it is difficult to do and there are complex emotions and judgements at play, it’s highly possible they have significantly watered down the actual impact of the feedback being delivered. So the reality is likely much worse than they actually let on.

The more unequal the power is (think about giving feedback to the boss) and the more sensitive the content, then it’s crucial to appreciate the courage taken by the person delivering the feedback.

Appreciate the courage.

2. Use this as an opportunity to practise winning an Oscar for “Best Performance in Accepting Feedback”.

Seriously, use everything within you to be the best listener, use the best body language and apply the most appropriate time length of silence before responding.

Our most natural response is to launch right back with justification, reasoning or defensiveness. If you respond that way, you will earn yourself a reputation for being unapproachable.

Pause before you respond.

3. Ask questions

Combine both your magical powers from points 1 & 2 above, and then respond with questions, rather than statements. Try:

How long have you felt this way? How is this impacting you? What is the outcome you are seeking? What suggestions have already come up with? Are there others this may also be affecting?

Be inquisitive.

4. Be vulnerable

Reacting with defensiveness will not allow for a great discussion nor a successful outcome. Allow yourself to respond the way you would like someone to respond to you in the same situation.

Apologise if it is appropriate. Dismount any metaphorical high-horse you may have ridden in on and offer a sincere apology in the same manner you would to your best friend or your child.

Thank them for being brave enough to speak to you.

Be human.

After all, giving feedback is actually a very generous thing to do.